The Press Release also highlights the police's use of indiscriminate public order tactics (such as kettling and charges) on the day, and report that they had also considered using plastic bullets. An article I recently had published (Cocking, 2013) looked at the use of such tactics (focussing on baton & mounted charges). I concluded that use of such tactics usually escalates crowd disorder, because they psychologically unite previously mixed groups in a crowd. So, if the intention behind the use of a tactic is to disperse a crowd and make people go home, then it is often counter-productive, because it usually has the opposite effect. In this paper, I included interviews with people who were at this protest, and their accounts along with my own observations on the day, support this conclusion. This protest was probably the most violent I had witnessed in Britain since the mid 1990s. However, from my observations and the accounts of the people I spoke to, the conflict increased after the police charges, escalating into a major riot in Parliament Square, with minor skirmishes and looting spilling over elsewhere in central London. Therefore, assertions that indiscriminate public order tactics are necessary to quell crowd 'disorder' are rarely supported by closer observation of the sequence of events, but this doesn't stop violence at such incidents usually being portrayed as the responsibility of crowd members and their inherent susceptibility to 'sinister forces'.
Today's acquittal is clearly good news for Alfie, Zak, and their families and is to be welcomed. However, I think we also need to closely examine how such protests are viewed and managed so that we can question outdated and unsubstantiated views of crowds that permeate the legal system and public order policing.
For more detail see coverage in the Guardian, and the Defend the Right to Protest website web-site.